MOSCOW (AP) — President Donald Trump has accused Joe Biden of shutting down a “very good” Ukrainian prosecutor to stop a corruption investigation, but the prosecutor in question had a less than stellar record.
Viktor Shokin, who served as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in 2015-2016, was widely accused of doing nothing to combat Ukraine’s entrenched corruption.
In a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump repeatedly urged him to push for an investigation into his Democratic rival, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House Wednesday.
In the call, Trump claimed without citing any evidence that Biden, as vice president, sought to interfere with the prosecutor’s investigation of his son Hunter, who had a paid position on the board of Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
Without mentioning Shokin by name, Trump told Zelenskiy that “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”
Trump and his allies long have pointed to Biden’s efforts in March 2016 to pressure the Ukrainian leadership to fire Shokin, who had previously led an investigation into Burisma’s owner.
Biden was representing the official position of the U.S. government, which was shared by other Western allies and many in Ukraine. Shokin had failed to pursue any major anti-corruption investigations, leaving Ukraine’s international donors deeply frustrated. He was arguably one of the most unpopular officials appointed by Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.
Despite the assertions of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Shokin never had an active investigation into Hunter Biden’s work. What’s more, he was accused of closing the probe into Mykola Zlochevsky, a former government minister who indirectly controlled Burisma through offshore companies in Cyprus.
The U.S. publicly condemned Shokin for failing to investigate Zlochevsky. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Geoffrey Pyatt, lamented at a conference in September 2015 that Shokin was undermining the work on “legitimate corruption cases,” including the probe into Zlochevsky’s activities.
Daria Kaleniuk, a prominent Ukrainian activist and executive director of the Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center, and her associates held several protests at the time to demand that Shokin be fired.
“Shokin was not investigating Biden,” Kaleniuk told The Associated Press. “There were several cases into Burisma and Zlochevsky, but Shokin was blocking those investigations.”
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.